OSU’s incoming freshmen could face tuition hike

Ohio State University’s board of trustees is considering a program that would mean incoming freshmen pay the same price all four years for college.

Schools allowed to raise tuition if it’s frozen after freshmen year.

Public universities in Ohio are heading into their fifth straight year of state-mandated tuition freezes, but the state has given schools an out if they guarantee each year’s tuition for an incoming class.

Universities can hike tuition within certain parameters if they lock in tuition over four years, and Ohio State University hopes to become the state’s third public college to make that guarantee.

“The Ohio State Tuition Guarantee” would hike tuition and fees 5.5 percent for incoming freshman this fall, but it would be the only rate hike those students pay as undergraduates.

Ohio University and Miami University also have tuition guarantee programs, and Wright State University is considering one.

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The Ohio State plan will go before the school’s board of trustees Tuesday and also must be approved by the Ohio Department of Higher Education.

The proposed hike falls a half-percent below what is allowed by the state, the school says. The university would still be able to increase tuition at the rate of inflation for the following year’s freshmen class.

Tuition is typically the single biggest source of revenue for colleges.

“We thank the legislature for providing Ohio’s colleges and universities with flexibility to fund high-quality academic programs while increasing predictability and transparency for students,” OSU president Michael Drake said in the school’s announcement.

The program would set resident tuition and fees at $10,591 per year at Ohio State’s main campus and at $7,553 for the Lima, Mansfield, Marion and Newark campuses. The new program would not affect tuition for any sophomore, junior or senior at Ohio State, according to the school.

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‘They want it to be predictable’

Miami implemented its tuition promise plan a year ago, and increased tuition by just under 5 percent for the first cohort of students, said Michael Kabbaz, vice president of enrollment management and student success.

Although tuition guarantees usually come with initial rate hikes, they’re generally accepted because of the promise that they won’t be made again, Kabbaz said.

“I think people understand the fact that tuition has to go up eventually,” Kabbaz said. “But, they want it to be predictable.”

Like Miami did a year ago, OSU will increase need-based financial aid on top of the tuition guarantee. Ohio State will invest an additional $25 million into its President’s Affordability Grant program to boost support for 15,000 middle and lower income Ohio residents.

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Wright State exploring idea

Although only a few schools have tuition programs, several have expressed interest in them, said Jeff Robinson, spokesman for the state’s department of higher education. Robinson said he expects more colleges to introduce similar plans over the next year or so.

One of them could be Wright State.

WSU considered creating a tuition guarantee plan this year but did not have the time to do so, said spokesman Seth Bauguess. Wright State had to deal with budget problems this summer and welcomed a new president.

“We do plan to examine it to see if it makes sense for Wright State University and how it can be most effectively implemented,” Bauguess said.

If WSU moves forward with a plan, it would be the second area school to do so. The University of Dayton, a private school, began offering a tuition guarantee plan back in 2013.

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‘It makes us competitive’

UD’s tuition plan, which also eliminated individual fees, has proven effective, school officials say. The plan increased graduation rates among this spring’s senior class by 8 percentage points while reducing the students’ cumulative loan debt by nearly $6 million, according to the school.

UD President Eric Spina says the plan has helped in recruitment.

“When you think about the fixed-net tuition, when you think about no fees, it doesn’t just make us competitive with schools in the state,” he said earlier this year. “It makes us competitive with schools around the nation.”

By the numbers

The state allows colleges with a “tuition guarantee” plan to increase tuition within certain parameters. Ohio State would become just third public college to do so if its board and the state approve the plan.

6 percent: Amount the state allows tuition to be increased by one time under a tuition guarantee plan.

5.5 percent: Amount Ohio State proposes to increase tuition and fees under its plan.

$10,591: Tuition cost incoming freshmen will pay all four years under Ohio State's plan.

$7,553: Tuition cost incoming freshmen will pay all four years at an OSU branch campus.

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